Redefining service delivery in the automobile industry

 Festus Okoli

Festus Okoli

Western logistics Nigeria Limited is a one-stop automobile solutions provider that is committed to providing speedy, reliable and competent services; always looking ahead to bring to the customer what’s next in top of the range automobiles. Mr. Festus Okoli (Ili ka Nnu), the Managing Director of the firm is an enterprising business leader of global repute who understands the impact of business integrity, networking and information sharing to the growth of any entrepreneurial venture. The presidential aspirant of Automobile Dealers Friends Association spoke on the Focus of a CEO as well as what he intends to do for the association if elected in this interview with Nnamdi Nwokolo.

What informed your choice of business?
Actually, entrepreneurship runs in my family DNA; my dad was engaged in the importation and sales of Peugeot spare parts as well as transportation. As a young man, I grew up going to his office and helping in the day to day running of the organisation. The early exposure to my dad’s business activities really helped me to develop passion for entrepreneurship. Upon graduation from the school, naturally, I had to pursue my dreams in line with my passion and that was how I got engaged in the sales of diverse brands of automobiles. Since we started operations, Western Logistics Nigeria Limited maintains consistent good quality, short-delivery periods, competitive pricing, and committed technical support, thereby becoming a reliable partner for a long and trustworthy working relationship.

What are the initial challenges and how were you able to surmount them?
We operate in a difficult environment, so on a daily basis, you encounter a lot of challenges. Naturally, the average Nigerian entrepreneur encounters so many challenges not to talk of an import based enterprise. Initially, getting foreign exchange and clearing our goods from the ports was part of the biggest challenge we encountered in the business. Moreover, we had to deal with unscrupulous businessmen who resort to using illegal routes to bring in their cars as they do not want to pay import duties for their vehicles.

What their activities did to our business was that it affected our pricing but when the Federal government through its agencies intensified their border patrol, our pricing became more competitive. The instability of the Naira was also a major challenge but beyond listing all these challenges, I was brought up in such a manner that challenges are seen as opportunities to get to the next level. Beyond that, what has actually kept us going is determination, integrity and the Grace of God.

What is your take on the recent efforts of government in promoting local automobile production?
To be honest with you, I would say the policy is a welcome development but the truth is that the infrastructure challenge in the country will not enable the smooth implementation of the policy. For example, electricity is a major challenge in the country, so it will be very difficult for indigenous auto manufacturer to survive.

Not to talk about the challenge of getting FOREX to import raw materials. One may say that Innoson is doing it, but if you are close to him and he enumerates the challenges he encounters, you’ll begin to appreciate the sacrifice he is making to put Nigeria on the world map of automobile manufacturers. To be frank with you, the state of our roads is equally a big challenge as movement of vehicles from one part of the country to the other is becoming so daunting. But in all, if government gets the infrastructure right, the policy has the potential of turning around our economy positively.

In view of the proliferation of automobile dealers in Nigeria, what are the factors that stand your organisation out of the competition?
Western Logistics and its directors travel themselves to bid for cars in Europe and America directly and the resultant effect is that the quality of our cars is second to none and our prices are very competitive. Our team maintains a strong foundation of trust and mutual respect generated through positive relationship with associates, clients and all stakeholders. Our mission is to create, retain and sustain competence in partnership with our customers by delivering service and maximizing profit for all partners involved. We have a very good knowledge of the industry and our knowledge base is our competitive advantage. At our office along the Lagos –Ibadan Expressway by Berger, we have established a dedicated customer care desk to handle all our customers’ complaints with a swift response.

You are aspiring to the presidency of Automobile Dealers Friends Association, what is the motivation? I’ve been the financial secretary for two terms as well as the treasurer of the association and now I’m aspiring to the presidency of the association. What we intend to do is to encourage mergers and acquisitions to have mega auto showrooms to guard against the indiscriminate display of cars on major highways. My motivation is to help the organization reach its full potentials as well as support the business and economic growth of its members using our contacts globally.

In specific terms, what do you intend to do if elected?
As a registered organisation operating in Lagos state that already have a secretariat, the major thing my team will do is to clean up and raise the secretariat to the standard it ought to be. We also intend to make the association an institution as a way of motivating more people to join the association. We want to build a good working relationship with Lagos state government as well as the state task force so that the harassment of our members will be reduced to its barest minimum. Above all, we equally intend to build a very strong financial base for the association so that members can draw funds to either clear their cars from the ports or to solve major financial challenges.

The idea is basically to empower people through the association so that our colleagues who are yet to join will find good reasons to be members of the association. We can put resources together to get a bus for the organisation which we can use to generate funds for the smooth running of the association. But beyond all that, we intend to liaise with automobile dealers all over Lagos with a view to form a common body that will serve the overall interest of automobile dealers in Lagos state. The team will make a difference by making accountability the watchword of our administration. I want to build an association that people will be proud to be members.

What can government do differently to help enterprise development?
I urge the government to review the import duties paid for vehicles with a view to encourage more people to use our ports. What has happened was that the high import duties have made a lot of people to use illegal routes to smuggle in cars into the country. Unfortunately, it is very ironic that after our members have paid duty for their vehicles at the port, and the vehicles cleared by the department of customs and excise, the same agency will be on the road and begin to impound and harass our customers. My sincere advice to the government is to intensify border patrol to minimize entry of cars through illegal routes in the country.

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Festus Okoli
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